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3 Nuclear Fusion Energy Companies for Investors to Watch

At the United Nations Conference on Climate Change being held in Paris at the moment, nuclear fusion is being talked about as the ‘Holy Grail’ of clean energy technology. So what is nuclear fusion? Isn’t that what nuclear reactors are all about? Well, not quite. The nuclear reactors we use today to produce energy use fission, not fusion. Here’s a handy breakdown of the differences between nuclear fission and nuclear fusion (source UCDavis):
Fission_Vs_Fusion

With fusion energy, one tablespoon of liquid hydrogen fuel would produce the same energy as 28 tons of coal with no radioactive waste low-level nuclear waste. One of our readers with a great deal of experience in the matter commented:

It is incorrect to say that fusion produces no radioactive waste. Anyone semi-credible is talking about deuterium-tritium fusion which produces an alpha particle and a 14 MeV neutron (D +T = n + He). The latter interacts with the container and other surrounding equipment (magnets, heating systems, diagnostics, vessels, etc.) to produce lots of waste. By careful materials selection, it may be low level radwaste but there is certainly plenty of it. 

While we have fusion reactors in operation today, they require far more electricity to operate than they actually produce. Using the most efficient fusion reactors we have, twice as much electricity is burnt as is produced. When asked about the 3 inventions that will change the world, Elon Musk cited fusion energy stating:

It’s a very, very difficult technical problem, one of the most difficult technical problems that humanity will ever try to solve. But if we solve it, we will have “energy forever”.

While the problem may be one of the most difficult to solve, it’s not just a pipe dream. Fusion energy startups have drawn investment dollars from billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Peter Thiel, and Paul Allen. Here are 3 startups trying to commercialize one of the most promising sources of energy there is.

Click for company websiteRedmond Washington based Helion Energy has taken in just around $12 million from Peter Thiel’s venture capital firm Mithril Capital Management, Capricorn Investment Group, and prestigious startup accelerator Y Combinator. Helion claims to be making a fusion engine 1,000 times smaller, over 500 times cheaper, and realizable 10 times faster than other projects. Here’s a look at how their fusion engine will operate:

Helion_Energy_Solution

Helion has also taken in $5 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy. The Company aims to have a commercial plant operational in just 6 years’ time.

Click for company website

Founded in 1998, California based Tri Alpha Energy has said to have taken in anywhere between $140-$200 million in funding so far from the likes of Paul Allen’s venture capital firm Vulcan Capital, Goldman Sachs, and Venrock. This 150 employee Company has been operating in stealth mode for the past 17 years, and finally unveiled a website just this year. Their big breakthrough came this year when they heated a ball of hydrogen plasma to 10 million degrees Celsius and held it steady for 5 milliseconds with no decay. Apparently, in the world of fusion energy, this is an incredible feat. However, in order to actually get more energy out of fusion than you put in, you would need to hold that steady for one second, an eternity at the rate they are going. As one expert commented, “I give them the benefit of the doubt. I want to watch them for the next 2 or 3 years”.

Founded in 2002, Canadian startup General Fusion has taken in around $75 million USD in funding so far from the likes of Jeff Bezos, Braemar Energy, and Chrysalix Energy. They are using an approach referred to as Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) which uses shock waves to compress hydrogen plasma to fusion temperatures and pressures, a method they claim is faster, more practical, and the lowest cost path to commercial fusion energy. In their next phase of development, General Fusion will be constructing a full-scale prototype system that will demonstrate full net energy gain on each pulse, a world first. While they want to accomplish this during this decade, an MIT article back in 2009 stated the following:

General Fusion aims to complete the reactor and demonstrate net gain within five years, assuming it can raise another $37 million.

So that means the reactor should have already been completed last year. Perhaps they didn’t have enough money. So maybe their recent funding round of $20 million is just what they need to complete this by 2020.

In conclusion, if any one of these 3 fusion energy startups succeeds in harnessing energy from nuclear energy, the world will be transformed into a much different place, and investors are likely to reap unimaginable rewards as a result. However, even the most optimistic claim for a fusion energy solution to come online is 6 years from now.

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  • Vortexengineer

    The website Vortex Engineer refers to a liquid pendulum engine which may be capable of generating hyper-velocity shock waves which would produce temperatures high enough to melt refractory metals and also possibly high enough for fusion.

  • Chres Pernet

    Please send me more general Fusion aims informations and where to invest into such Companies or Investment including sares at any Market.

    • Jan Herholdt

      Interested in investment

    • Nanalyze

      Hi Chres. There is no way at the moment for retail investors to invest in fusion energy yet. Best to subscribe to our weekly digest to keep up to date!

      https://www.nanalyze.com/weekly-digest/

    • Dmitri Novikov

      Another fusion company is ours – Proton Scientific http://protonscientific.com/ We will be glad to give a presentation. We are currently designing a fusion reactor to be built with a Fortune 500 expert to monetize first on the energy producing process and then on 150MW power plants.

  • EnergyWatcher

    Anyone heard of the ITER project and how would this international initiative impact on any private plays in this field? Thanks

    • Nanalyze

      Thank you for your comment. We hadn’t heard of the ITER and it looks very interesting. We’ll take a closer look at it and here’s a link for others who want to do the same!

      https://www.iter.org/

  • Dutchie

    You forgot LPPFusion. Their density*time*temperature achievement has been more than a 1000 times better than the companies mentioned. They just started their experiments again with Tungsten Anode and Cathode. Energy break-even is expected in 12 to 18 months.

    • Nanalyze

      Thank you Dutchie! We’ll take a closer look at LPPFusion.

  • Howard Hornfeld

    I am founder and president of a small group in Geneva called FUSION ADVOCATES. FA was created and officially registered in Geneva as an association in 2013 with the intention of building a complete proof-of-concept fusion power plant on a pilot scale, based on known and proven cutting-edge technologies. The core technology uses a spherical tokamak (presently available) and HT super-conducting magnets (presently available). It includes a liquid lithium-beryllium first wall (presently available) and tungsten divertors (presently available). The facility will include several different heating systems to achieve the 150 million degrees required (all presently available) and tritium production, storage and isotope separation (presently available), gas turbine electricity generation (presently available), diagnostics (presently available), remote handling systems (presently available), and a large number of truly expert consultants (presently available). We have identified a perfect site (presently available). We have a business plan, which shows investment and personnel needed, BUT no return on investment is expected as it is a proof-of-concept project. As yet we do not have any funding, which is estimated at US$ 3 billion over 8-10 years. Further information is obviously (presently available!).

    • Nanalyze

      Thank you for the information on your venture Howard. $3 billion in funding is a huge amount and the ROI needed makes that unlikely anyone would ever commit to that. This is why nuclear fusion technology is having a difficult time getting off the ground.

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